Full transcript with additional information on the film:
Carol is the cinematic version of the bold seminal 1952 lesbian romance novel The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith (who wrote Strangers on a Train), from a screenplay by Phyllis Nagy. The book is known as the first famous gay novel with a relatively uplifting ending. No one dies, or turns appropriately straight in the end, for example.
Shopgirl Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) and socialite Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett) are immediately drawn to each other. They meet in the department store where Therese works during the holidays, when she helps Carol searching for a Christmas gift for her young daughter. The story of their budding relationship, and the challenges it brings to them as individuals in the homophobic atmosphere of 1950s New York unfolds with all its beauty, poignancy, and sadness, over the 118 minutes of screen time.
Director Todd Haynes has proven himself capable of this kind of story telling with 2002’s Far From Heaven. With Carol, he reaffirms himself as the cinematic heir of classic Hollywood melodrama auteur Douglas Sirk, whose visually stylized films focused on the hypocrisies of American domestic life and the oppressive nature of forced conformity. Here Haynes turns his lens to the history of being gay in the 50s through the cinematization of the novel, although the film is far more about desire, yearning, and choosing to be true to oneself, regardless of the cost, and therefore has a far more universal appeal than simply an entrant into contemporary queer cinema. There is also a subversive quality to the fact that in the 1950s, there isn’t yet a language or understanding of what being gay looked like, and as such allows the characters to discover for themselves what being gay means. Visually lush, gorgeously photographed, deliciously costumed by Sandy Powell, and, above all, exquisitely acted, Carol should be seen and appreciated widely this holiday and awards season.
Rooney Mara won a Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival, and the story is seen through her eyes, but both she and Kate Blanchett are, in their own way, leads in the film. With a 16 year difference in age, it is somewhat a May-September romance. Both actresses make nuanced use of the elements of that dynamic at play, as well as the fundamental differences in personality and positions of class. Kyle Chandler as Harge Aird, Carol’s husband, carries the weight of playing the oppressive self-righteous husband, and does so with a spot-on subtle self assurance. Sarah Paulson as Carol’s friend Abby Gerhard lends an authenticity to the outsider role, although for fans, is seen too little on the screen.
Screenwriter Nagy says the story is about how truth is the ultimate tonic…that if you are emotionally truthful to who you are and what you believe it, good things may not happen, but you’ll still become a better person. Certainly, Nagy’s screenplay and Haynes’s direction allow these characters good arcs and a rich interior lives. The actors embrace that in their memorable, nuanced portrayals.